Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living

September had no business travel, so of course October had to make up for it. Combined with a 3-stop speaking tour, I had a trip to our LA headquarters and another to Seattle for a meeting on the Microsoft campus. Sprinkled in-between were some wonderful personal trips in Ontario and Pennsylvania. I’ve lost track of how many miles were spent in the air, but 2,226 miles were spent in a car. Tonite will be the first night in my own bed in 3 weeks.

Travel creates lots of time for reflection — especially when it has you re-treading old paths. In Seattle, I got an afternoon to visit the sweet spot we used to call home in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. The event I spoke at in New York was 20 minutes from the apartment where our oldest two kids were born. I also circumnavigated Lake Ontario for the first time ever, and got to enjoy breath-takingly beautiful views of the Thousand Islands — a place I am resolved to visit again with the family.

A particularly interesting stop was at a conference in Pennsylvania with ABWE, a missions organization with a long history of enabling incredible good, and briefer history of hiding incredible evil. We were interested to see what had become of the folks that sent my family to Bangladesh in my youth, and after reading many books on the topic, learn a little more about what’s happening in that still-troubled country. Some things have definitely changed: their website and missionary training now contains clear and unequivocal information on the safety and protection of children, and they’ve launched a tech ministry that has the stated purpose of partnering with, and enabling, nationals to reach their own people. Some things have not changed: I spoke to a missionary who felt over-worked on the field and that his family suffered as a result, and we heard from an executive team that is still 90% old white American dudes — not exactly a diverse crew. Still, even the white dudes were espousing some progress: that our families are our most important work, and that Americans might not always be God’s premier messengers in some parts of the world.

Each of the stops had a certain percentage of “what if” to them. We’d probably be a good deal more wealthy if we still lived in Seattle. Things might be easier if we lived somewhere in Ontario. I spoke at a really cool college in New York, maybe I could have made a career path out of that, if we’d stayed there. And of course an organization like ABWE could launch us almost anywhere in the world. We don’t really have any data to suggest that any other option would be better than the one we’ve selected, but the weight of other possibilities is sometimes overwhelming. We turn 40 next year — have we done everything we should have by this point? Our oldest becomes a teenager in just a couple months — are we doing a disservice to our kids by giving them such an easy, comfortable life?

Travel is expensive with a family of five. Banking miles on business travel takes me far away from my kids, but buys us opportunities to take them on little adventures. The next few we have planned will be fun and easy ones, but I wonder if its time to show them a little more of the world.

Why I stopped attending your church

Its been a frustrating 6 years trying to find a church home here in the States. There’s lots of them, sometimes they’re just barely afloat, and when you get there, you start to wonder why they keep trying. We’ve been to lots, and given up on quite a few. We’re not fickle “church shoppers”. We know that churches are made up of imperfect people, like ourselves, and therefore there is no perfect church. We’re willing to make a commitment, and love other people through their foibles and hope they can put up with ours. But with the kids approaching middle school, its reasonable to have a minimal set of expectations, so that we can maintain that commitment through their challenging “youth group” years. Here’s some of the reasons we haven’t been able to find a permanent church home (within a reasonable drive of our actual home!)

You weren’t prepared
Having a theme and an anchor verse for your message is not preparation. You are charged with delivering the most important material in history — take that responsibility seriously. A good sermon requires careful study, serious exegesis, historical research, and thoughtful application, delivered in a structure that allows even the most immature congregant to follow along as you deliver the material. You don’t get to just pick a topic and pray for the Spirit to speak through you. Granted, thinly prepared material, disguised with a charismatic, folksy story-telling style is at least entertaining (I’ll get to that in a minute), but it doesn’t make up for a lack of substance. Disorganized rambling is even worse.

Whether you intend to deliver a topical message or an expository one, I expect your sermon to be backed by a significant chunk of contiguous scripture, which is read aloud and, during the course of your sermon, is properly contextualized (from its source) and applied (to the target.) And I say “contiguous scripture” because you’re not allowed to pull one verse from the Old Testament, another from the New Testament, and claim the Bible backs up whatever point you’re making — that’s called proof-texting, and you should be shown out of the room when you do it. That doesn’t mean you can’t show relationships in Scripture — it means you don’t get to make up your own.
(By the way, be real careful about fresh new discoveries in the Word — most of them aren’t fresh and new. Most of them are heresy that someone in the 1st century already tried.)

Your music wasn’t worship
I get it, church music is hard. Different people have different tastes, and most don’t like to be outside their comfort zone. Immature believers are unwilling to put their personal preferences aside for the good of the body. My point is not about style or preference, its about who the music is for (hint, its supposed to be for God!) When you lead corporate music, your job is to facilitate the worship of others, not put on a show, impose your preferences, or create an experience. You should all but disappear.

There are lots of ways to get that wrong: are you the only one who knows the song you’re singing? are you selecting a variety of styles so even the most “immature” congregant can feel a part of the worship — or are you only selecting your favorite style and hoping everyone else adapts to you? did you rehearse together in advance so that you can lead properly? is the tempo so slow that people are yawning? did you decide not to sing Christmas songs at Christmas for some reason? if you’ve rejected hymnals on the belief that no one can read music, are the words on the screen at least the ones you’re actually going to sing, or are you planning to free-form it, and leave everyone guessing? are you singing so many songs that the congregation is tired and the older folks have to sit down?
You don’t have to cater to everyone’s preference. You do have to create an inclusive and transparent environment, so that you disappear and God can become the focus. The golden rule for church music: don’t be a distraction…

You thought this was an entertainment venue
Related to music, but not strictly limited to it, I did not attend your church service to be entertained by you. There are plenty of entertainment venues in the world — I can go to a movie theater, a play or a concert if I want to be entertained. I didn’t come here for that. I came to be with fellow believers, to worship God, and hopefully to feed and be fed in the Word. Sound, lights and video can facilitate that, if used appropriately and with restraint, but they shouldn’t replace it.

I have no problem with technology in worship — we can give glory to God with the tools He gave us. But if we replace worship with tech or media, or use those things in ways that are so distracting that we can’t focus on what we’re there for, then we have made an idol of our technology, and we should repent of our sin and stop.

You tried to manipulate my emotions instead of engaging my brain
This kind of manipulation can happen with tech and media, but it also happens in more subtle ways. Repeating a line or chorus in a song repeatedly is a technique used in cults to induce a suggestive state — don’t do it. God doesn’t need us in a suggestive state to speak to us through you. Three times is plenty of repetition for healthy communication. “Setting a mood” by changing the lighting, inviting weeping testimonials on stage or playing them in a video, or delivering prayers that are disguised instructions to the congregation (“God, we know that many in the room want to come forward right now…”) are blatantly manipulative. I’m not talking about spontaneous response to the Holy Spirit — I’m talking about staged, planned activities designed to induce an emotional response. These are inappropriate.

Instead, allow God to deal with matters of the heart — what I feel is not your responsibility. Instead, pour over the Word, earnestly seek what God would have you share, and communicate that clearly and intelligently. Prepare your message with multiple levels of depth so that you can speak to everyone, no matter where they’re at in their maturity or life. By all means, use anecdotes or testimonials to help me understand or apply the message, but if you find yourself trying to create a feeling, or appeal to an emotion, just stop. That’s not teaching, its manipulating, and its wrong.

You didn’t create an on-ramp
Unfortunately, most of the churches who get the above things wrong are the ones who get this right. The inverse is also often true. You can get everything wrong, and keep people who came for the wrong reasons. You can get everything else right, but if you don’t have a way for me to fit in, you fail too.

And really it doesn’t take much. I’ve been a “professional church lay person” for 20 years — I’ve been a dedicated volunteer in many ministries, a part of church leadership, and I even have a seminary certificate. I’m ready to plug-in… if I can figure out how! We once attended an (almost everything right) church for a year, including signing up for a small group, going to kids activities, and trying to get ourselves invited to other events. After a year, no one knew our names except for the people we knew before we started going, and the people in our small group wouldn’t make eye contact when we saw them outside the group. One time I went as a new-comer to a dad-and-son event at this church, and I was the only one identifying and greeting other new-comers.

Here’s another hint: an on-ramp isn’t inviting new comers to identify themselves to the entire congregation, or participate in a large group activity that makes them stand out. Its a “Getting Started” class facilitated by a few members of the congregation who are gifted in hospitality, or a “Welcome Lunch” with the elders or pastor.

If your church can’t engage a mature Christian that’s ready and willing to get involved, then how will you ever reach the lost?

Getting it right
There’s lots of books out there, and lots of “mega church” patterns to try to follow. But despite all the church strategy, I suspect its much easier than you think. From all the churches we’ve seen over the years, I think the formula is pretty simple:

  • Pastors: study the Word, communicate as clearly as you can, trust God to speak to the heart.
  • Music leaders: don’t put on a show, don’t try to create a mood. Just lead music that everyone can sing and try to be invisible, so people can focus on God instead of you. If that means there’s less people on stage, and less technology involved, so be it.
  • Church body: love God, and love your neighbor as yourself.

We won’t all get these things right all the time, but if you’d at least try, it’d be a lot easier to stick with you through the tough spots.

Who is John Galt? The Pursuit of Happiness, Pride, Humility, Grace, Justice, Christlikeness and the American Dream

I’ve almost finished reading Atlas Shrugged. Let me tell you, the weight Atlas carried pales in comparison to the weight of dragging that giant, preachy tome around with me all summer. But I can’t deny the impact it, travel, and world events lately have had on me over the past few months.
For the uninitiated, Atlas Shrugged reads like a Republican Bible — probably a more appropriate one than the actual religious book most of them claim. But stripped of the preaching, and the often intolerant-seeming approach to government (or lack thereof) there’s a core point that they’re trying to make, that when you take away the theater, posturing and the other (more ridiculous) mountains Republican’s are willing to die on lately, it’s a very lucid one: every individual should have the right and responsibility to build their own future and consume what they produce.
There’s a caveat here that Rand’s philosophy fails to recognize (or would prefer to exclude from the debate entirely) which is that not everyone is born with equal opportunity. It’s a flawed to assume that if everyone put in the same volume of effort, every person born would be able to arrive at a state of self-sufficiency and happiness. The reality is that an ambitious child born in Africa that works harder than a less ambitious child born in Canada is not likely to end up with the same level of wealth, happiness and fulfillment, producer though he may be. You needn’t even go as far as Africa to understand that principle – between school districts in the U.S. you can find gaps in opportunity that are just as large. And of course there are those stuck with disabilities or challenges that can’t be overcome. These are not exceptions to the rule, these are the norm. Rich, healthy white folk living in a plush land of opportunity are the exception.
But none of that takes away from the notion of personal responsibility. Systems created to remove personal responsibility are corrosive to a society. This is not debatable. When its better to evade taxes by staying on welfare while getting paid for work under the table, then the system is broken… And perhaps it shouldn’t have existed (at least in that definition) to begin with.1
Tina Fey says gradually becoming a Republican is a side-effect of getting older. Perhaps the longer you’ve had to work to achieve what you have, the more you value seeing that same responsibility in others. I recognize that I am made uncomfortable by people who’s success (or apparent success) was not achieved through hard work of their own. I bracket in “apparent success” because this corrosion of personal responsibility applies to debt – in epidemic proportions! What you own/drive/live-in is an outward indicator of success, so people leverage themselves to the hilt to appear successful – hoping never to have to take responsibility for those appearances.
I can’t argue these sentiments. The Bible says those who do not work should not eat. With a few exceptions (mental or physical capacity), I’m in total agreement. But the natural (human) extension of this is something I can’t reconcile. That happiness is the result of what you’ve earned, and pride in it is justified and even righteous, flies in the face of what I believe about our place in the universe. Some would call that Liberal guilt…
Conservative Christian friends, help me:
How can I say I’m proud of being a skillful worker and producer, while being humble before my God (and in testimony)? How can I acknowledge that despite my hard work, without Him I would be nothing, while claiming that those who have nothing must deserve it because they’re obviously not working hard enough? Is it righteous to be prideful of my achievements when the Bible tells me that pride goeth before a fall?
How can I show grace to those in need, how can I feed the hungry and clothe the naked in obedience to Christ’s direction, without feeding into a system that is corrosive, or supporting an individual’s destructive mindset of entitlement?2 How can a group of believers who should wish that none be lost, be opposed to a government program that endeavours to provide opportunities for the broken to recover? How can I acknowledge that without God constantly giving me second chances, I would be doomed to hell, while criticizing a political viewpoint that works to give second chances?
And I guess if I could answer myself, I would contend that it’s not the government’s job to provide programs and opportunities – each of us who has learned the value of personal responsibility has the opportunity (and as Christian, the duty) to show humility by extending grace and second chances within a relationship with those we know who could use some help picking themselves up and trying again. And if every Republican who shouted down entitlement program spending, were also such a person of grace and humility, then maybe I could get on board with them…
I have a good job that I enjoy working hard at, and I do relish success. Nicole and I discipline ourselves to live within our means, and consume at the level that we produce. We don’t feel guilty that we have a cute little house, or a couple decent vehicles, or the opportunity to find the best possible education for our kids. But I don’t think its right to claim pride in any of those things either – they are gifts from God that our imperfect human efforts do not make us deserving of. And if anything, the grace extended to me in that provision should teach me to continuously extend that grace to others – even those who don’t appear to deserve it. Even sacrificially.
I know so many people with good jobs, who produce admirably for themselves and society, and who are apparently enjoying the benefits of their hard work, but who ache with emptiness and dissatisfaction, a loneliness in their success that no promotion or possession will ever fill. They have exercised the right and taken the responsibility for their future, but their American Dream is a listless nightmare, because they live only for themselves, and fulfillment of their happiness.
I’m not sure how to be a Conservative and approach the lost with humility and grace. I’m not sure how to be a Liberal but still hold Truth as absolute. And as I watch the coverage of the upcoming election, I despair that its neither extreme that will tear our society apart, but the growing polarity between them that will render us ineffectual and immobile.
Atlas is not a man, more righteous than others because of his mind or his output. Atlas is the Holy God of creation. And he doesn’t carry the weight of the world on his shoulders, He holds all the universe in the palm of His hand. He waits not in anticipation of our collapse, but in His desire that each of his children, individually special in His eyes, finds their way home. And no matter how many times each of us has failed to live up to what He intended life and work and happiness to look like, He has never shrugged us off… That I am redeemed by Him should be my only source of pride.
1) This is not specualation, this is based on a real story of a person I know who spent years on welfare, but for the past 4 has worked hard at a regular full-time job to get out of that hole. Unfortunately, having started later in life, he cannot manage to cross the threshold where his income allows him to support his family and pay taxes. He has to keep his pay under the table and continue to claim unemployment. In other words, he has to take money from the government to avoid paying them money. WTF?!
2) Case study number two: I volunteered at a United Way homeless shelter for over a year, serving in the kitchen. Never have I been treated so badly as by the homeless folks who felt they were owed a meal. Granted there were some who were grateful, having come in from day-labor, tired but gracious, who took what was offered with a smile and sometimes a hint of embarrassment, cleaning up after themselves as they left. But most of the clientele were rude, sometimes hostile, demanding personalization of their meal as if they had paid to dine at a fancy restaurant, leaving their half-eaten food on the table as they stomped out for a smoke or to sneak a drink, or demanding seconds while others still waited to be fed, sometimes yelling and threatening violence if they didn’t get their way.

Claiming Old Testament Promises

Alas, I am still easy-chair bound, and to hobble downstairs and yank out my giant textbooks would be too difficult for a simple blog post, but I’ll write this without citing sources simply as a challenge — rest assured that this challenge was given to me in the form of first year seminary courses, and not something off the top of my head. If you have questions, I encourage you to research them for yourself.
At issue is our tendancy to claim Old Testament promises out of context. I myself am guilty of quoting Jeremiah 29:11 to encourage someone going through a tough time, but its important to understand the implications — especially political, national and theological — of doing so.
The promises God gave to the Israelites in the Old Testament were given to a geopolitical group: when He promised land, He wasn’t promising you land; when He promised wealth, He wasn’t promising you wealth; and when He promised a hope and a future, He wasn’t talking to you, or even to individual Israelites at the time. He was promising to provide a home, and later to provide restoration, to His chosen people — a whole nation (and sometimes not-yet-born generations of that nation, not even the ones alive when He made the promise!!) — with the stipulation that they obey His commandments!
The only way to claim those promises for ourselves today is to re-understand “Israel.” The most common approach to that, and in my opinion, best supported Biblically, is to understand that when Christ came, he redefined “His chosen people” not as a geopolitical people group but as the new nation-less, race-less assembly of those who would chose to follow Him, whom He called His Church. If you can accept that “Israel” is not now the (relatively newly established) country in the Middle East, but is instead the Church, then you can lay claim to some of those Old Testament promises and stipulations on them — as they relate to the whole Church; again, not to individuals.
If, however, for reasons likely political, it is important to you maintain the current country and people of Israel as a continuation of the Old Testament Israel, then you have no claim to the promises given to that nation thousands of years ago; all of those promises belong only to them.
Apparently there are those who find some middle ground, or compromise between those two positions, chosing to view the church Christ established as a chosen people, and ancient-through-modern Israel as also a chosen people, picking and chosing which rules and promises are applicable to the former, as they see fit. I see the two positions as mutually exclusive. John 16:33 promises that in this world we will have trouble. It doesn’t promise that God will make everything right — at least on this earth. Our only reason for hope, and the only reason our brother’s and sister’s living in Israel have for hope, is in life eternally with Him.
There’s no promise that each of us will have a pain free life, just because we’re Christians. I offer as evidence my mangled leg: I hope it will heal completely — but the most likely outcome is that I’ll have 2-3 months of re-hab, 6-12 months of painful swelling, a lifetime with at least a mild limp, and probable arthritis when I get older. If I hope hard enough (or pray hard enough) there’s no promise that will change. But when I get to heaven, I do have hope that my new body will be a much better one than I have now!!
A good list of the viewpoints on who the “Chosen People” are today can be found here.
PS: It would be prudent to exclude Psalms from this discussion, as those should be interpreted differently, due to their genre. Proverbs and Ecclesiastes as well seem to offer promises, but the wisdom genre again requires a different kind of exegesis…

Seminary Paper 2: Homosexuality and the Bible

As a preface to this post, please read this one, to understand the position I’m writing from.
I put off posting this paper because I know how contentious it is (and even painful for some.) Its a complicated topic, that has not been represented well by the Christian community. Some might be surprised to learn that Jesus apparently said nothing on the topic — that’s certainly a far-cry from the far right, conservative position on the subject! At any rate, I don’t post this for flame bait, but in the spirit of respectful discussion and an earnest desire to uncover what the Bible really says about this. Personally, I lean toward a more conservative viewpoint, but after doing the research for this paper, and finding decades of spiteful vitriol spewed by very un-Biblical Christian leaders on this topic, I can’t help but view the other side of the debate in a more empathetic light. Here’s my conclusion — or you can read the whole paper here.
If the church fathers have maintained a well-documented position for 2000 years, the church of today would do well to pay heed to that legacy. Certainly homosexuality is not a new concern, and if intelligent, Godly men have poured over what scripture we have on the subject and concluded that homosexual tendency is a sin to be conquered, then Christians have a duty to reach out to those lost in that sin, meet them humbly as fellow, fallen human beings, and demonstrate the love that Christ commanded of us.
If, however, the church leaders of centuries past lacked information, or staunchly defended a viewpoint that is intellectually and scripturally questionable – and there is certainly historical precedent for human error and bias affecting church positions – then that love and humility must remain applicable. We have to acknowledge that there are certain topics on which we lack literal divine instruction, and not stand in the way of those who would come to our Father’s throne holding an opinion different from our own!
However distasteful our view of a specific sin is, God leaves no margin for interpretation when He says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23), that all sin is abhorrent to God (Jas 2:10), and that each of us is entirely dependent on His grace (Eph 2:8) and changed by His redemptive work (Phil 1:6). What right have we, who through no work of our own, having been saved by love, to tell fellow sinners that they are undeserving of that love?
Wherever an individual Christian lands on the debate about homosexuality, thank God it is not our place to judge. (John 8:7). Rather it is the duty of every believer to work out their salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12). Those of us touched by this subject, either personally, or through family or friends wrestling with a reality that even conservatives estimate to impact up to 10% of the population , would do well to study scripture prayerfully, read the opposing viewpoints, and resolve before God to act, think, speak and welcome in love anyone who would look to us, the church and the body of Christ, for guidance and friendship. We are called to be a light in the darkness, not flame throwers.

Seminary Paper 3: Creation

As a preface to this post, please read this one, to understand the position I’m writing from…
Our TA who marked my paper (and gave me an 88%!) said I did a good job researching other people’s opinions, but wasn’t clear enough on what I thought. I actually think I barely scratched the surface of all the different opinions, both educated and not-so-much, on the topic. And to be honest, all the talk bores me — my opinion is simple: God created the world. Moses wrote down his best understanding of how that happened, which both God and tradition revealed to him. His purpose in writing was to set the appropriate outlook and expectations for God’s people. I suspect that creation took longer than 6 literal days — although I believe that if God wanted to do it in 6, He could have. I suspect that God didn’t reveal the story to us literally because God loves science — He desires for His kids to learn about Him through the study of His creative power. And I see importance to the debate in the differentiation between creation (bara) and formation. Only Elohim can create matter from nothing — even ardent evolutionists are at a loss to explain matter where there was none before. Formation, on the other hand, is observable throughout the created world — even today.
I’m not an evolutionist. Human beings are more than the sum of their parts, so I accept a “special creation” or at least special formation, when it comes to human beings. How God did that, or how He formed the rest of the universe? Well, I’ll leave that pursuit to those smarter than me. I suspect God wants to communicate with them on a level I am ill-equipped to perceive. Here’s my summary. You can read the rest of the paper here.
Why were the initial Christian reactions to Darwin’s theory received without prejudice, and even welcomed by some, when now they are maligned as affronts to our religious beliefs? Have we as Christians grown tired of revising our understanding of the Bible, and in the face of scientific progress become stubborn and superstitious? Or has Neo-Darwinism’s scorn for theology backed Christianity into a defensive and reactive position? Are we any different than the church who forced Copernicus into hiding for his theory of heliocentricity? Or is a literal 6 days the final line we must hold in order to defend the inspiration and value of the Bible?

The reality is God directed Moses to write about 6 days, and to describe the creation of mankind in His image. How God did those things, or how long He took to do it is a mystery we’re invited to explore – as He gave us all of creation to explore. “Scriptural statements are not bound by rules as strict as natural events, and God is not less excellently revealed in these events than in the sacred propositions of the Bible.” (Galileo, 1957) and in fact it is in the very exploration of God’s creation (and creative method) that intelligent people find God !
We can’t know, or pretend to know, or argue vehemently that we know how God created the universe when we weren’t there, and He didn’t spell it out for us scientifically. Even the most likely author of the book of Genesis wasn’t present when it happened. What we can know is bara Élohim – God created. Not just formed, but created. And because He made us like Him, we’re allowed to ask “how?”

Seminary Paper 1: Hell and Universalism

As a preface to this post, please read this one, to understand the position I’m writing from…
I haven’t read Rob Bell’s book yet, but I’m interested to do so soon. This paper was written as part of my own exploration of what the Bible had to say on the fun topic of eternal damnation. A seminary prof has since forwarded me an interesting article on a related idea called “Christus Victor” which is worth a read. Here’s my summary:
Faced with clear scripture as is found in 2 Thessalonians 1:9, a liberal, in a more conservative mood, would have to concede that “eternal destruction” probably meant, at least to Paul, “eternal.” A conservative, faced with the reality of hell for someone they love, likely would concede that God can do things we can’t imagine, and remember that He alone governs such things: “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” (Rev 1:17-18)
Interpreting Paul’s words on judgment and hell, alongside Old Testament notions on the subject, Christ’s teaching, the cultural understanding that Paul was speaking into, the rest of the New Testament canon, and the literalness of the form, it would seem to take some significant mental effort to construe his writing as anything but literal and what God intended him to write. Paul spoke about judgment after life to inform, encourage and instruct the church at Thessalonica, admonishing them to live in a way worthy of God’s calling and reminding them that God would reward the just and punish the unjust – clearly articulating an eternal, painful outcome for those who did not obey.
Although it seems wise to take the scripture at face value, one should acknowledge that God’s love and his power are beyond what we can imagine. It is fortunate, then, that these things are up to Him, and not to even His church to decide in the end.
You can read the rest here using Office Web Apps on SkyDrive.

I think we're alone now

Another reason for pushing our blog a little further into obscurity is that the opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of my employer. Occasionally I rant with fervor, and those rantings should not be associated with my “work life” identity as a representative of a large software company. For instance, while my job title indicates that I evangelize technology (literally using the word “evangelist”), in my personal life there’s a Gospel that I’d much rather be associated with — created for a cause much more important.
Not only am I a dad, a husband, and a technology guy, but I am also a seminary student. And although I hope my personal faith guides my professional life, and that obedience and devotion to the Lord of my life throughout my daily routine can somehow reflect His truth and grace; although I appreciate a country and a workplace that allow me freedom to practice my beliefs, I do not, like Sunday School teacher’s used to tell us we should, use my work life as an opportunity to prosleytize.
Some may call that cowardly — and maybe it is — but the reality is that religion and politics are two conversation topics sure to raise ire quickly. And in much of the world, politics has become irrevocably infused with religion. This morning I watched Mike Huckabee on the Daily Show having a chat that started on the topic of the founding father’s religious beliefs, that seamlessly became a talk about big vs. small government. In neither the host’s, nor the guest’s, mind did the topic change from religion to politics. As far as they recognized, there was no dividing line. And if you can’t talk one without the other, and if at least one of those is sure to offend the sensibilities of your audience, then outside of a personal relationship, there is no way to share your faith at work.
That doesn’t mean there is no way to share your faith with individuals you meet at work who become friends. It just means that the relationship has to come first. Within a boardroom, a rant about ones beliefs on hell would quickly destroy any ability to communicate professionally. Within a friendship, however, listening to your another’s thoughts and beliefs and sharing your own, is a mutually rewarding and enjoyable activity.
So let me be clear for those who know me professionally and still read this blog, and for those who may later stumble across it: this blog is a conversation between friends. Yes, the Internet creates strange definitions of friendship, but the point remains valid. These are not the opinion of my employer, nor would I espouse many of these opinions in the course of a normal business day. I hope and work for an ethic and integrity in my job that reflects the noble characteristics that my faith teaches, but I respect the viewpoints of others, and would not use my belief system to judge or preach to others I come across in my professional life. Within the context of friendship, that respect continues, but in the form of dialogue and exploration. On this site, and in my personal life, I do articulate my beliefs, but in the spirit of an open, and enjoyable exchange of ideas. Since you’re reading my site, my beliefs are likely to be more prominent, but you are free to disagree, debate, ask questions, and challenge my conclusions. You are also invited to explore these beliefs for yourself, to see if maybe there is a God of the universe, who created you unique and with a purpose…
All this to say that I’ve written a couple papers for my seminary class on Biblical Interpretation. I’m not in seminary to become a pastor, but to leverage a spiritual and academic environment conducive to a better understanding of my Saviour and a more mature and informed faith. To that end, I chose to explore interpretations of a few controversial topics, and in the coming week or so, I’d like to post excerpts from those papers here for discussion. I have tried to be moderate and balanced in my approach, while honoring my own faith which informs my decisions. I hope they are useful for a respectful, interesting exchange of ideas.